Blake Bargatze's voice strains when he talks.
I can hear his new lungs struggling as he relays details of his coronavirus nightmare from a rehabilitation facility on the other side of the world.
Four months after the unvaccinated 24-year-old from Florida caught a "full viral load" of Covid-19 at a live music venue, he still can't walk.
His muscles were eaten away as he lay in bed for more than 120 days with tubes helping him breathe – his body supported by "40-50 pills a day".
He has a simple message: get vaccinated.
Bargatze is not the cohort many think of when it comes to Covid-19. But increasingly younger people are falling victim to the deadly virus.
Previously healthy Sydney woman Adriana Midori Takara, 38, died last month from coronavirus. She and her boyfriend were both unvaccinated.
Bargatze was two weeks away from receiving the vaccine when he went out with a friend to a venue he thought would accommodate 50-100 people.
When he walked through the door there were up to 1000 people there. He was wearing a mask, but thinks that a reveller coughed on him.
"It was pretty loud in there. I wouldn't have even known," he says.
Within days, he started to feel ill.
"I had body aches, I was really sore. My cough was terrible – I was coughing up blood. I had lots of congestion."
Almost 10 days after getting sick, he went to the hospital. They did a swab test which confirmed he had been infected with Covid-19. But they sent him home anyway.
Two days later, when he was struggling to breathe, he was admitted again.
"It was really bad," he says. "I was in that hospital for maybe about a week and a half. They had to intubate me, put me on oxygen."
The Florida hospital did not have enough critical care beds, so Bargatze was flown to Atlanta, Georgia, where he remained for 50 days.
"I was in a medically induced coma or happily sedated the whole time. But then my family was told my lungs were failing.
"Doctors were thinking it could take months if not longer to find a matching pair of lungs. I was transferred to the University of Maryland Hospital in Baltimore and just got really lucky."
Within days, doctors had a match. The transplant was successful, but the 24-year-old was still fighting for his life.
"After being in the bed so long, I lost a lot of strength and muscle mass," he says.
"For a long time I couldn't lift my hands or fingers off the bed. [Now] I have the full range of motion in my arms and can stand with some assistance but I still can't walk.
"I'm hoping to take my first few steps in the next few days."
He says the medication he is on regulates his blood pressure and ensures his body does not reject the transplant.
His life will never be the same but he is grateful to be alive.
"I have a lot of restrictions. I can't be in smoke-filled bars, I can't eat raw foods – no sushi, nothing medium-rare. I have to be extremely careful about who I am around. I am extremely immunocompromised."
He has a positive outlook on life but regrets attending the venue before he was vaccinated.
"I was a little sceptical about the vaccine at first," Bargatze says. "A lot of people were because of how political it became. But I know now that it's no different from the flu vaccine. I wish I had just waited to go out until after I was vaccinated."
He calls it a "common misconception" – one that even he believed before getting sick – that younger people are immune to Covid-19.
"I had no underlying diseases or ailments or issues. I just managed to catch a full viral load."
Bargatze is facing a long road ahead post-transplant. A donation page has been set up to help the family.